China opens lighthouses on 2 PH reefs in Spratlys | Global News
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China opens lighthouses on 2 PH reefs in Spratlys

10:47 AM October 11, 2015

BEIJING—China has started operating lighthouses on two reefs in the disputed West Philippine Sea, state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday, as tensions in the region mount over Beijing’s maritime ambitions.

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Xinhua reported late on Friday that the Ministry of Transport held a completion ceremony for the 50-meter-high lighthouses on Cuarteron Reef and Johnson South Reef in the Spratly islands.

The two reefs are on the Philippine side of the Spratlys, in the West Philippine Sea, and are claimed by Manila.

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Filipinos call the two reefs Calderon Reef and Mabini Reef.

The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Saturday that it was verifying the report.

“No comment for now while we validate the information,” said Assistant Foreign Secretary Charles Jose, spokesperson for the DFA.

The West Philippine Sea is part of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone recognized under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Mostly barren islands, reefs and atolls that are believed to be sitting atop vast oil and natural gas deposits, the Spratlys straddle one of the world’s busiest sea-lanes through which $5 trillion in shipborne trade passes every year.

The Philippines protests the Chinese incursion into its territory and, together with the United States, opposes China’s construction of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Military purposes

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Both the Philippines and the United States have expressed concern that China’s land reclamation projects around the reefs in the Spratlys could be used to base military planes and naval ships to intimidate other claimants and threaten freedom of navigation, and have called for a freeze on Beijing’s activities in the sea.

Manila has taken the dispute to the United Nations for arbitration, but Beijing has refused to take part in the proceedings and said it would not recognize any decision by the arbitral court.

China claims most of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, including waters within the territories of its smaller neighbors in the region.

Besides the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

US challenge

The United States also rejects China’s extensive claim in the sea, and a US official has said the United States is considering sending warships to waters within the 22-km zones that China claims as territory around artificial islands it has built in the Spratlys.

China said on Friday that it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation.

Washington has signaled it does not recognize Beijing’s sovereignty over the several islands China has built on reefs in the Spratly archipelago and says the US Navy will continue to operate wherever international law allows.

The issue is central to increasingly tense relations between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies.

Beijing has said construction in the region is to help maritime search and rescue, disaster relief, environmental protection and navigational security.

It has also said it will continue to build other installations to better serve countries in the region and vessels navigating those waters.

The Philippines has repeatedly condemned China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea, saying Beijing is violating a declaration of conduct it signed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2002, under which parties in the maritime disputes agreed to maintain the status quo in the South China Sea. Reports from AP and Niña P. Calleja

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TAGS: China, Cuarteron reef, Department of Foreign Affairs, Johnson South Reef, Spratly Islands, Spratlys, West Philippine Sea, Xinhua
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